Carole's Olympic Adventure
Day 1 - Feb. 4, 2002:
Carole got up at dark thirty this morning to finish packing and getting ready. She had an 11:15 AM flight out of the Eugene Airport, which meant she needed to be at the airport around 9:00 AM. Tank and I drove her to the airport and dropped her off. When I got home there was a message from Nancy Steel of KPNW radio asking Carole to contact her. Carole called the house while she was waiting for her flight and I gave her Nancy's info. Don't know what she wanted exactly, or if Carole got the chance to talk to her. Anyway, look for updates and messages from Carole here on a semi regular basis. I don't expect she'll start posting stuff for a few days because they have to cram a bunch of training in in the next few days, but I'll leave it to her to keep you all updated from now on. --- Marc Sayer
Day 3 - Feb. 6:
Then I began schlepping my incredibly heavy bags to the Airport Police Building, stopping every 100 yards or so because it was just too heavy. Once there, I got to wait for about 2 hours because they were incredibly disorganized. Then I piled into a van with 6 cops and a driver and proceeded on my epic tour. I no longer remember all the places we went, nor why, but we did arrive at our dorm. We emptied the van of our luggage and dragged it down a huge flight of stairs, which has become my own private torture. Everywhere we need to go, there are stairs. Really big sets of stairs, and remember we're at a brutal elevation, and also remember I am not very fit. I'm panting everywhere I go!
This is where we were to be checked in. BUT of course we had to wait another hour before the people who were to check us in arrived. Then I found out that while some folks were going to be house at this dorm, but we were going to end up in a brand new facility! This sounds pretty good, but isn't. It is new, and in much better shape, (Unless you're one of the guys at the other end of the hall who had a water pipe break under the floor and flood their unit!) but you can't walk to the dining hall, you need to get a shuttle ride, and it has no phone service, which is why my journal entry took some time. I now have to schlep the laptop with me every day, so I can go to a room in the older dorm to get a phone line. The rooms are really great though. They are quads - 4 bedrooms with 2 baths, a kitchen, and living/dining area.
I have had some trainings or briefings, and my duties are not at all what was described (going with the flow, going with the flow!). We are not dispatching medics via helicopter. We honestly are radio support for the various aircraft which the military are flying in and out. Yes, you heard me right, we really are working with all those cool military aircraft. We are responsible for what they call flight tracking, keeping logs of what is said on the radio. Our head dispatcher has been here since Saturday and says it gets really busy and exciting. We will be seeing 3 & 4 star Generals regularly.
Well, I'm pretty pooped, and must get a shuttle back to my dorm, so this will be all for now, but now that I've figured most of this out, I hope to get a bit more regular.
However I did not succeed in downloading my email, so those of you who've sent me stuff, I apologize for not responding, but will keep working on getting that to work.
--The Olympic Dispatcher :)
Day 5 - Feb. 8:
Our group of dispatchers will be working out of two different facilities, doing basically the same things at each facility, one is military and the other isn't. We will bounce back and forth to staff both stations. We got to see Air Force One today. We even got to take pictures of it! We were led to within 100 feet or so of the big bird, and allowed to take pics. I just about passed out. We even took one picture of the 4 of us in front of the big bird. I'll try to get them tomorrow so I can add them to this journal, but for now just imagine my awe! Additionally, it was really cold as the airport is right on the Salt Lake, and the wind off the lake made my ungloved hand almost freeze. I couldn't move my lips after being out in it for the 15 minutes it took to walk out, take the pics, and walk back. (Yes folks, it made me speechless, but just for a few minutes!) As I said, the duty at both locations is similar, just a difference of who we are talking to. Today was pretty slow because when the President was arriving no one could fly anywhere near for an hour before and after. This put a crimp in their style, but it was still fun, meeting all the different folks, and exchanging stories and info.
We got to go up onto the mountain at Park City Yesterday where some ski jumping and other ski events will be taking place. We took pics up at the top, which may or may not come out, but it sure was cool to see!
When we left, we decided we should check out an oil leak, because it had been smelling and it was a pretty good leak. Filled up 3 quarts of oil at a gas station and now we were really worried, so took it to a GM dealer right in Park City, where the guy said he'd had one of the Olympic vans in that morning which had its engine seize up because of the same oil leak but no one had paid any attention. We tried to get them to check all the vans, but I think they are just too overwhelmed with this entire logistical nightmare that they haven't dealt with that at all. The problem was just a bad seal on the oil filter...simple fix and we were back on the road an hour later.
Earlier that day we went to downtown Salt Lake and did a shopping & sightseeing trip, and did another one at Park City. This is a really quaint town which has tons of really expensive homes/vacation homes, and everything in it is really expensive. But it is cute. Hopefully some pics there too.
We also visited the VECC, Valley Emergency Communications Center, which handles 911 calls and dispatching police/fire/medical for all of Salt Lake County EXCEPT for the incorporated city of Salt Lake. WOW! This center is brand new - opened in July of 2001, - and really big. They are completely independent, handle their own finances with a board of directors etc. They have about 75-80 line staff, and 10 or was it 12 supervisors. I took many pics here. This place was just awesome! They have the same Watson workstations we do, and use Vesta phones/radios, but they have both at all positions. They use a main frame CAD now, I think it was called HTE, but are ready to convert to Spillman CAD. Their communications floor is much larger than ours and they were concerned about sound bouncing so they have no right angles in their whole building. All walls are at angles, so the sound won't bounce around much. I have some pics which should show that pretty well. They had lots of money and installed bullet proof glass, with electric shades. Their quiet room has two poofy recliners, a table with flowers, etc.
also are on an earthquake fault, and they built this whole building on
giant shock absorbers, so the whole building can move 24 inches without
damaging the flooring or walls! They have a door which accesses these
and I have pics of that too. There are 4 dispatchers like me (4 more
of the 50 who are here) who got to work in this center assisting with calltaking
and liaising with other agencies. I could have walked right in and
started working with the Vesta equipment, and it looked pretty cool, but
then I'd miss all those cool military aircraft... These dispatchers
were housed at another location in bachelors barracks which they say are
really cushy and they get to use the officers mess! Compared
to those at Park City these folks are in the Ritz. Some of
the Park City folks are housed in things like Winnebagos with no hot water,
so they can use the head, but have to drive to a shower! Others got
housed in old decrepit FEMA trailers, which they installed but did not
insulate. The first night they all froze. There is much
shared cop/dispatcher humor, and pretty good camaraderie. Oh, and
by the way, there is a guy from LCSO here: Jeff Wellhouser!
We are all signing a big Olympic Flag in the main check in area and I saw
his name. He must have gotten clued as to who I was because he introduced
himself to me and confirmed that he was from our Lane County (it said Lane
County Sheriff's office but I didn't know if there was another one around).
- The Olympic Dispatcher:)
Day 6 - Feb. 9:
I had today off, and took the day to call Marc at home and found out about the huge storm, the tree limb landing on my garage, the other limb landing on my fence, and poor Tank getting the scare of his life as the limb hit the fence in front of him. Marc says he's at the end of the list for the insurance adjusters since we have no really bad damage, but I thought I was the one who was supposed to be handling disasters! Anyhow it was good to talk to him and get some of my computer troubles figured out. I should be able to access my email now, so will try to keep up with it, but as always this is the best way to get the news. I got up late, had lunch, and spent the afternoon talking and working on the computer, now I'll go over to the dining hall for dinner with my buddies and then we're all going to the free Huey Lewis concert in downtown Ogden! They really are trying to keep all of us volunteers busy, either working us to death, or giving us stuff to do. The skiers are all having a great time with free rentals and free lift tickets at some nearby slopes. One of the dispatchers did that on Thursday, and she got to meet the downhill team from the Netherlands. She said they were really nice and friendly, but of course no one could understand them. She tried her German to no avail, but the language of the slopes and snow balls is universal. She was high on fun when she got home that night.
Everyone watched the opening ceremonies on the big screen TV in the dining hall right after dinner and what a show. The cops had to deal with some protesters, can't remember what they were protesting, there were several groups protesting about different stuff, but other than that no real problems at the opening.
Time to go for dinner and my free concert...Hope everyone else is OK after the storm.
-Your Olympic Dispatcher:)
Day 8 - Feb. 10
Well, my free Huey Lewis concert was great. This was outside and he was wearing only a sweater and jeans and his lips didn't freeze to the harmonica! It was held in downtown Ogden and they had the center of town blocked off, much like the Eugene Downtown Mall. Lots of game booths, cotton candy, pin swat tents etc. and it was great fun! It was really great to see all of us old folks, many with gray hair bopping to Huey!
Today was a day off for me and my designated laundry day. Had to schlep my suitcase full of laundry over to the main dorm via shuttle bus to do it, and when I got home, I hung up my wet stuff and laid down for a brief rest. Two hours later I woke up! Then I came over to the main dorm for dinner and to watch the Pairs Figure skating competition.
I heard from one of the dispatchers that the their duty was pretty exciting today. By the way, this is actually the first time that this many different agencies have cooperated and worked together on one event before. I don't have a list of all the agencies, but will get one before too long so you can get an idea of how precedent setting this is.
Storm Marc tells me we have a very badly damaged fence and a hole in our garage, but no damage to our epic remodeling project (the house), and no injuries to either him or the doggies. Tank, however got the scare of his life when the top 1/3 of the ~75 ft. tree next door came down on our fence very near where he was doing his job in the back yard. Marc said he beat feet into the house and quivered for a while!
I'm receiving the emails you are all sending and am really enjoying them, forgive me if I don't answer you. I'm finding that I have less time than I thought since there is no phone service in my room and I have to get a shuttle bus to take me to a place to work. Also this lap top is a bit slow. I tried to upload using the T1 connections the dorms have in their computer rooms, but I guess I couldn't get the settings right because I kept getting an error message so had to resort to the lap top.
I finally got to talk to one of my roommates who is an officer with the Missoula PD. She is on early days, and me late days, so we pass in the night. She is actually getting paid, because last year when they had a Hell's Angels thing, the Utah State Patrol sent paid officers to their assistance, and Missoula felt obligated to return the favor. The only problem is that she has to work 7 days a week for a total of 21 straight days. She is working up in Snow Basin and is really cold and muddy. Probably getting nice OT, but still 21 straight days! EEEEU!
For those who like skiing, many of the surrounding ski places are giving us workers free lift and rental tickets, and all who have gone say they are being treated like royalty. Everyone is really nice, with many businesses giving discounts if you have your credentials. I have a pound of laminated passes around my neck wherever I go, and am getting quite used to this mode of travel!
Well, its 11pm and I'm getting pretty tired so all for now.
-Your Favorite Olympic Dispatcher:)
Well, Its 9:30pm Tuesday night and I just got back from dinner, sort of. The group picked me up from work at 5pm today and then we met up with two other guys who are dispatchers who are working at Park City. They are the ones who are living in the FEMA trailers and the other RV's (welcome to Cowboy Village) with very little heat, no hot water, and chemical toilets which don't get emptied enough. Anyhow, we went to dinner at a Hard Rock Cafe in Salt Lake City. We had a really raucous good time. Lots of laughs, lots of dispatcher jokes, lots of goofy stories and good fun. They dropped me off at my dorm so I decided to compose my journal entry off line (since I have no phone service in my dorm remember?!) and upload it tomorrow when I go over before work.
Today was pretty smooth, no exciting observations, and no flights out in the morning at all since the visibility was really poor. The air quality here is almost as bad as Los Angeles. To my observation, the fault is industry. Everywhere you look there are oil refineries belching stuff into the air, or other types of industry pouring smoky stuff out. It is just awful, looks awful and smells awful.
Going with the flow is a really good way to handle this whole experience, and given my usual dislike for spontaneity, its been a reeeeeeally good thing for me. I'm getting down right laid back! I know my coworkers won't be able to believe that one, and I must admit that my fellow dispatchers here take bets on what time of day my first complaint about having no phone service will come out of my mouth, but really I am handling this very well for me. [Breathe Carole, Breathe!]
I have not been in a position that I could take a pic of any aircraft takeoffs, but I hope to before we leave and will have them to show when I get home. The board on which the flights of the day are posted is nothing more than a large long wipe board. That's right folks, no computers for these folks, and this is partially because it needs to be able to be read by a number of different people who this way can just step into the room or area, and instantly size up the status. The radios are all the more basic push button/microphone types, no headsets used in either place, which allows anyone walking by to jump on the radio if necessary and is more like listening to the fire radios than police.
Radio work is tricky due to the difference between the military's way and the law enforcement way. One big issue is that their phonetic alphabet is different, and of course I don't know it. It is fairly easy to repeat back what was said to you - no different than any other radio situation, however if you are called upon to spell something of your own...eeeeek! Interestingly the civilian group uses our format of identifying the other guy, then ourselves, so we fit right in so far as that goes, but they use terms like "Over" when they have completed a transmission, and "Roger" when we might say simply copy, and "Out" when they are going to stop talking completely. Everyone is really tolerant of all of our differences realizing that we are all part of the team, and all are giving of their own time to be here, so there isn't any really serious fault finding.
What truly blows us all away is the level of disorganization in the Olympic Committee. Everything is paper. No one has put any of the personnel files on discs and no one is using a laptop. When Marc and I put on a National Car Club Convention back in the late '80s, we had all the registration files on our Commodore SX64 portable computer (size of a small suitcase mind you, but high tech for its day, even had a little *color* screen) which we carted to the Hotel and all around. None of us can believe that they have been so technologically backward. This obviously accounts for the great number of problems we've run into I guess but it is really astounding.
It is now almost 11pm, so I'll close out now, and upload this tomorrow before I go to work. Sorry if I got boring but just skip the parts you're not interested in, and maybe other folks will be interested in those parts (I hope).
-Your Tired Olympic Dispatcher:)
Hi all! Here's your roving Olympic Dispatcher coming to you again from Beautiful Ogden Utah. Have I mentioned that where I am actually staying and working is really in Ogden Utah which is about 40 minutes or so from Salt Lake City.
Well I had a great time yesterday. Lots of fun radio traffic which I'll fill you in on when I get back. I get such a big charge out of talking to these pilots!
Medic Stuff. I saw this on the news last night and this sounds really great. They have such a huge area downtown cordoned off for Olympic Square and there are so many people there, that getting a medic response would be impossible, so here's what they have done. They have outfitted bikes sort-of BMX type bikes with really big tread like snow tires, good saddle bags filled with heart starts and other medical supplies, and flashing red lights front and rear, and they are dispatched two at a time to any medical need within the crowd area. They even go down stairs! It was really impressive to watch them get through a crowd, and the medics seemed to really dig it. If someone needs to be transported from inside that area, they have what is called a Gator and looks like a, well I don't know what it looks like - start with large four wheeler, then stretch out the back placing a flat bed on it, long enough to attach a backboard. This thing goes up and down stairs too. They pull it up to the bike medics who have been tending the patient, they all get the patient onto the back board and secured to the bed of this thing, then off they go! What a plan! Of course there are landing zones at all of the venues for helicopters if medics are needed there, and all the cops working those venues near the LZ's are briefed on how to assist the pilot and how to secure the LZ. I must assume that those helo's are dispatched from their usual dispatch centers, and there may be some of us assisting at those centers too, but I haven't met them.
This is such a BIG area, that you don't get to see lots of the folks working other venues further away. Given how stinkin' many people I've met, it is just boggling my mind. Mostly I see the folks in the two dorms, because we use the same shuttles and dining halls. When we go roaming around like shopping etc. we meet other folks, since all of us must wear our credentials hanging around our necks at all times, but how many can you meet that way?!
Sickness We've had several folks get altitude sickness, and have to go to some type of infirmary (wherever that is). This can be a really unpleasant condition. Signs and symptoms were given to us in our arrival paperwork, but I saw one cop who looked like hell and said he had a headache that threatened to take off the top of his head. He tried to go to work, but after an hour gave up. You can also have a bad cough, and other stuff. I thankfully have not had any bad effects other than being so out of breath I am sucking wind way more than usual. Other than the fall I took right at the airport I've had no accidents or illnesses and am knocking wood as I speak. I can't imagine anything worse than coming here for this experience and ending up in bed feeling horrible.
Events I haven't gotten to go to any events yet, though others in my group have. There apparently were some tickets for some downhill event today, but they were for a 9:15am start time and I was asleep. Its a bit hard with our residence being a drive away from the main hall. All of the free tickets are coming to the command post in the main dorm, and by the time I get over there on my off days, its too late. One of our gals has gone skiing several times and went again today. All of you out there who really like to ski should be very envious. She says the snow is so great it is unbelievable. Additionally all the operators are being really accommodating to us, even though we're getting all services for nothing. She is overwhelmed with how great she is being treated. Shari, I still don't have an autograph, but on a night I was working, my crew went to dinner in Park City ($5 hot dogs & $5 chili) they met Wayne Gretsky in the bathroom, and got autographs from, is it the crispy creme gals? and someone else I can't remember, so I'll keep working on it for you!
Activities of Daily Living I'm not sure what I'll be doing this afternoon, but I must get to the bank as I'm out of money, and to a store as I'm out of orange juice. Almost right away we all went to the store to buy towels because they have given us two hand towel sized towels as bath towels, and we also bought pillows since the ones given would fit Hobbits better. Since we also have a kitchen, I also got juice, bagels, oatmeal etc. for those times I don't have time to shuttle over to the dining hall and back. The kitchens are really nice, full sized refrigerators, ranges with microwaves over them, dishwashers - all the conveniences of hope EXCEPT the phone service. OK I didn't mention that until 1:15 today! Well, I must get off now, for my errands, so I'll sign off.
- The Happy Olympic Dispatcher!
Day 12 - Feb. 15th
I was supposed to be the late driver today, but the early driver didn't pick me up until 4:30 so we all went together to pick up the 5pm worker. They we decided to go out to dinner. Well, we left work and began our search with a restaurant I'd been steered to by the gals at the bank called the Prairie Schooner! No Kristy, it bears no relation to your Prairie Schooner! It has oodles of atmosphere - all western siding & decorations outside, and inside, each table is inside a covered wagon! Well, the wait was going to be an hour when we arrived around 6:15pm, and we were really hungry so declined to wait. We'd already had to do some searching for this place since I didn't actually get an address for it, and we drove around a bit before we got there. Then we left and began really driving around. By 7:15 we finally settled on a place which did seat us within 20 minutes, but by this time it was 7:35 and we'd have been better off staying at the first place! Then they for some reason decided not to hire many servers. I mean its only during the Olympics, and they only have a sign out front claiming to be the unofficial home of the Curling team! They apparently had a whole upstairs area, but wouldn't seat anyone there, because of not enough servers. It took forever to get water, then more time for appetizers, then way more time for our dinners. I had really been in the mood for a steak, and theirs was good, but they had run out of baked potatoes, and the mashed were solid cold. They had run out of several things, one person wanted ribs, and they were too busy to keep orders straight too. Oh well...Additionally I'm feeling under the weather. I'm sure I'm getting a cold. Nose is runny, throat is really sore, and I began sneezing really badly during the evening. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, but I can't even remember having any contact with anyone with a cold.
Oh, and if you're wondering, I did get money, OJ, and milk, but now I have to go back for throat lozenges. AND, I realize that I have neglected to send everyone a postcard. Please forgive me. And last but not least, for Tracey: Not An Eeyore in Sight wherever I look - but I'll keep looking!
-The Olympic Dispatcher:)
Day 13 - Feb. 16th
I had a hard time getting onto the computer today before work (2-11). The only way I can plug my laptop into a phone line to use my dial up connection is to sit at one specific station in the computer room. Unfortunately, everyone seems to like that station, so whenever I arrive, I find that seat taken, and a whole room full of seats empty. Today I had to wait for 20 minutes so only had time to download my mail. We had a mostly slow day, but some excitement toward the end.
Of course when my coworker arrived to pick me up, he mentioned that those who were off all had dinner together today and they of course went out to eat at a great restaurant. He said he had rack of lamb and it was better than he has ever tasted. Apparently everyone else concurred, and they didn't have to wait 2 hours for dinner either! Just my luck.
The cold is in full swing, so I'm off to bed and will upload this tomorrow.
-The Sneezy Olympic Dispatcher
Day 15 - Feb. 18th
Now is the time for Naoma to do that jealousy/envy thing! We got a ride in one of those wonderful helicopters! Yes indeed, two other dispatchers and I got to ride in one for 1 & 1/2 hours. Lots of ups and downs, 360 turns, hovers, banked turns etc. My stomach never rebelled, but we heard that some folks that the pilots had taken up the night before had used their barf bags! I must say when the pilots give you the safety briefing before taking off it is sort of scary. You just assume you'll never need to know where the fire extinguisher is or where the first aid kits are, but... Then we got up into the air and all that was forgotten and I just grinned from ear to ear. I even whooped once or twice, but there is so much noise no one hears. They'd told us to dress warmly, but I took off my earmuffs and gloves part way through the ride. The pilots said that was because the heaters actually worked that night, but they don't always work! I'll fill in with more details when I return but I can say for sure that I'll never forget that experience.
The next day three more dispatchers got to go up, but they got a shorter,
calmer ride. Additionally their heater didn't work and they froze!
Luckily I was the driver and was returning from a marathon drive
from Ogden, to the Airport, back to Ogden, and back to Salt Lake downtown
and just decided to take a chance that they'd be back. I arrived
at the parking lot, just as the three frozen guys called me and they almost
wept with gratitude. They jumped into the van and cranked the heater
for the whole ride back to Ogden.
-Your Olympic Dispatcher
Day 18 - Feb. 22nd
Well, my cold is tapering off and I have the day off so took time to do all those little things that have been piling up while they worked me to death. OK, so not really to death, but I did have 6 days straight between working at the base and driving the van. I work on base Saturday for one last time, then have Sunday off to pack. Took a boatload of stuff to the Mailboxes etc. to ship home which I hope will make my luggage a bit lighter on the return trip.
We're all hoping to get some pictures Sat/Sun since the event will be basically over. For security reasons, they haven't been letting us take them up to now. I'd really like to be able to show you all my work area as well as some of those marvelous birds. Did a couple of rescues the last couple of days, one guy caught in an avalanche must be pretty happy someone saw him finally!
A couple of us drove all over one area of Salt Lake looking for the place where they have the Olympic Circles in lights displayed on a hillside. I'm sure you've seen it in TV coverage, and we saw it from the air, but wanted to see it in daylight. After a very enjoyable drive through the best parts of town (sort of like the south hills) we were told by a hiker, 'Oh, you can't get there by vehicle. They purposely placed it so that no one could drive there, to keep down the tourist drive-bys!' Sigh...well we had a great time anyhow and I took a picture of one of the huge houses in that area, just to prove I was there! I'm getting very familiar with the area, driving all over the Salt Lake/Ogden area, though I haven't gone to Provo.
I missed out on event tickets, which disappointed me, but the only ones left for some of us were cross country and I really did not think I'd enjoy hiking out (and you did have to hike a ways) just to see them pass me by, so I declined (also had the cold during that time and wasn't really up to it).
I was just reviewing this and it seems that somehow I deleted the entry about my 'ride'...I'll try to get it back in here soon (where could I have put it I wonder?!?!)
-Your Olympic Dispatcher
Day 19 - Feb. 23
Well I went back and tried to recreate my "ride" entry, hope I didn't forget anything. Yesterday was an off day, and I just hung out, talking with folks, watching some Olympics, and enjoying the 'community'. This trip has been great. I've taken the opportunity to talk with many many folks from all over the country, hearing their war stories, how they do things, what other experiences they've had and building memories I'll have for a long time to come.
Today I again work from 2-11 and tomorrow have a day off to pack. I'm really hoping to get some aircraft pics either Saturday or Sunday. My flight Monday is at 11:15 but they have already said that the 25th will be the busiest day that Salt Lake City Airport has ever had, so we are supposed to get there 4 hours early. They expect the security lines to be outrageous. One of us is leaving Sunday morning, but the remaining 5 of us all fly out Monday morning, so we expect to get there around 6 or 7am. EEEK! I am not a morning person and that will be hard, but I don't want to be stuck here any longer than I have to so I'll manage. I'll see you all soon, and have a present for the center to commemorate my 'tour' here.
-Your Grateful Olympic Dispatcher
Day 20 - Feb. 24
I got tickets to the Closing Ceremonies! The last time I looked, they were about $800 each! They are having shuttles leave the housing at about 3pm so this will be my last entry here. My shift last night was pretty fun, but of course its all secret so I can't tell ya or I'd have to kill ya! I do plan to come to the center this week even though I'm off so I can share my pins and other keepsakes without the interference of working. I'm pretty excited about the ceremonies tonight, but its snowing now and was raining this morning, so it might not be too pleasant sitting there, but who cares it is after all the Olympics. Not much more to say that I haven't already said, so will see you soon.
-Your Tired but Happy Olympic Dispatcher!